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When I was a small boy, there were two scarves hung in my room, Coventry and England.

Club and Country, my footballing legacies for life.

England's dreaming - All those years of hurtOn this occasion I want to deal with my relationship, mainly a painful one, with the national team.

I was too young to remember the triumph of 1966 and was raised on iconic images such as the above photo of Bobby Moore lifting the most revered trophy in the World game. I wish I had been able to savour the greatest day in the nation’s football history and prayed it would come again. In some ways, thanks to our hype driven media, I believed it was an inevitable destiny.

How wrong can you be? We didn’t even qualify for two World Cup’s in the 70’s and the 80’s brought only more heartache notably at the hands of the flawed but total genius of Maradona. Nevertheless, I was obsessed with the notion, I would party in the streets with my fellow countrymen and women one day, even when all the signs were against it.

Put simply, we’d fallen behind. Our football was predictable and pedestrian. We weren’t even playing catch up, ostrich like in our belief our physical 4-4-2 style would return to vogue. To an extent, Bobby Robson in Italia 90 changed that. Player power saw a change as the tournament progressed. Mark Wright was employed more as a sweeper in a central back three. It gave the uninhibited talents of Gazza free rein. With a natural goalscorer in Gary Lineker, we came tantalisingly close to glory. Only for a new heartache to be born. The penalty shoot out, a game deciding failure that would haunt us for years.

Following the nightmare of Graham Taylor’s era seeing another World Finals missed, Terry Venables, a gifted tactician, gave England a new shape only for Euro 96 to end in familiar despair on our own turf. Glenn Hoddle was next to fall of at the hands of what now seemed a poison chalice. The impossible job, the tenure of England boss was now dubbed.

So we went foreign. But the national teams were now seen as second fiddle to the money soaked big club sides. The Champions League became a resounding success. Awash with money from TV and sponsors the international set up was almost an inconvenient hindrance. But for England there was renewed hope, the so called golden generation.

Terry, Beckham, Owen and the rest would all taste club success aplenty but under the controversial reign of Sven, quarter final spot kick heartache again gave the bitterest taste. Again, we have to ask, did we kid ourselves? At club level, England’s finest had success with the best foreign imports. Without them, they struggled. Same in the Capello era, to the extent a club manager with an impeccable record seemed to implode in South Africa.

Not so many flags lined the streets now. Tabloid patriotism had whipped us into a false frenzy. The FA, brought in the Club England nonsense which sold St George as a brand but where it mattered, on the pitch, failed to deliver. We had been sold a lie, a self delusion, that somehow it was we were on a par with the best when we clearly wasn’t.

So to Brazil, a special place for a special tournament. For England, drawn in a group of death, expectation is low. Perhaps that’s a good thing. We need to utilise the promising young talent coming through without burdening them with unrealistic targets. They need to be given the chance to play with a liberation missing for so long for England.

England’s no longer dreaming, there’s been too many nightmares. But bad dreams only end when you wake up.

Let’s hope The FA and the chest thumping media realise that this time.

Post written by Rob Summerfield
Blog: rob-summerfield.jimdo.com, Twitter: @RobSummerfield1

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